Select Swift Miscellany

Here are some Swift stories and accounts over the years:

Early Swift Wills in Yorkshire

William Swyfte
Tinsley (near Sheffield)
John Swyfte
Easington in Holderness
Thomas Swyft  
vicar of Egglesfield
Henry Swyft
Easington in Holderness
Henry Swift
Tunstall in Holderness
Henry Swift Sheffield
John Swift
Easington in Holderness
John Swift Easington in Holderness (son and heir)

The second half of the 16th century showed the Swift will numbers mainly in Sheffield.

Robert Swift the Rich Mercer

Robert Swift lived to be 84.  He was known as the rich mercer of Rotherham, benefitting as he did from Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries (securing valuable property from the Worksop priory). There is a monument to him and his wife erected in 1561 in Rotherham parish church, with the following inscription:

"Here under this tomb are placed and buried the bodies of Robert Swift esq. and Anne his first wife, who lived many years in this town of Rotherham in virtuous fame, great wealth and good worship.  They were pitiful to the poor and relieved them liberally and to their friends no less than bountiful. Truly they feared God who plentifully poured His blessings upon them.

The said Anne died in the month of June in the year of our Lord God 1539 in the 67th year of her age; and the said Robert departed the 8th of August in the year of our Lord God 1561 in the 84th year of his age.

On whose souls, with all Christian souls, the omnipotent Lord have mercy.  Amen.  Respice finem."

His younger brother William made his will in 1568.  In it he directed that "every poor man and woman and child shall attend his funeral and shall have a dinner and a penny in silver."

The Swift family was prominent in the area and intermarried with other local gentry, the de Wickersleys, Reresbys, and Watertons.  They later moved to Sheffield where they owned the historic Broom Hall house. 

The Ghost of the Swift Girl in Foulksrath Castle

When Dean Swift was the owner of Foulksrath castle near Jenkinstown in Kilkenny, the story goes that his daughter fell in love with an Irish boy.  He locked her away in the "Cuckoo Nest" room to stop her from seeing him.  The girl is believed to have finally been killed by her father in this room.  It seems that the ghost of the girl can still be found in this "Cuckoo Nest" room.

The castle, a striking 16th century Norman house tower, has recently beentransformed into a hostel.  It still retains iIts medieval features.  These include a magnificent dining room with enormous fireplaces and a spiral staircase to the upper floors.  The staircase appears to end up by the dorm, but there is indeed a secret passageway out to the roof.

Another castle story tells of a Swift who had built a flying machine in the dining room.  He had to knock a wall down to convey the machine up the staircase to the roof.  He then put a manservant at the controls of the machine and launched it, much to the hazard of the said manservant.

The Anglo-Irish Jonathan Swift

The best-known example of the Anglo-Irish was Dr. Jonathan Swift, poet, satirist, and the Dean of St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin. 

Fighting bitterly aganist the poverty and injustice which he saw inflicted on Ireland by the self-interest of the English government, his struggle was nonetheless largely on behalf of his fellow Irish Protestants.  He was aware that "government without the consent of the governed is the very definition of slavery" could apply just as well to the relationship between Anglo-Irish and Gaelic Irish, as it could to the relationship between the English government and the Anglo-Irish.

In attacking injustice done to his own race, he was in the peculiar and uncomfortable position of implicitly attacking injustice done by them.  In Swift's case at least common humanity could outweigh partisan considerations.  Some of his most famous work is universal in its implications.  A Modest Proposal, written in response to mass starvation amongst the most destitute Irish, satirically suggested selling their young children as food for gentlemen and even offered some helpful recipes.  

Swift Surname Distribution in the 1881 British Census

Numbers (000's)

The two main areas in Yorkshire where Swifts were to be found were Sheffield and Rotherham.

Nobel Swift and the Birth of the Swift Meat Packing Business

Nobel Swift was born and grew up in West Sandwich, Massachusetts.  He was a drover in his early years.  He would travel with his father to the Brighton market, buy livestock, and drive the herds down-country to Sagamore and Sandwich.  There the cattle were butchered and dressed and then sold to meat dealers all down the Cape.  It was from such humble beginnings that the Swift's meat packing business began.

It was said that when he drove his herds down from Brighton he'd keep the poor beasts from water during the last twenty miles.  When they finally got to the brook in Sagamore they'd drink enormous quantities of water, which would of course raise their weight.

Nobel went into business with his brothers, Gustavus and Nathan, when they started their owned dressed meat business.  Some in fact have said that it was Nobel's ultra-competitive spirit that drove Gustavus and Nathan out of Sagamore to Chicago.  Nobel held an interest in their Chicago operations, but he never left his family homestead in Massachusetts.

Nobel was also involved in cranberry growing and was one of the early pioneers in that field.  Through a keen foresight and an uncommon business sense, he was able to accumulate a fortune of his own and became one of the largest landowners on the Upper Cape.

He was said to be "a man of fixed ideas," one who was "not afraid to speak his mind whether in town meetings or anywhere else."  At one point he was dropped from membership of the Methodist meetinghouse. Apparently he would just sit there and roar with laughter and his cackling and crowing would interrupt the sermons.  

Swifts in Hanover County, Virginia

In 1933, Mrs. Aletha Pearl Lockhart (nee Swift) went to Virginia from her home near Longwoods, Maryland, to search for records of the Swift family in Hanover County. Virginia.  She went to the place where the Swifts for several generations lived and walked over the ruins of her grandfather's old home in which her father (Francis Marion Swift) and all of his brothers and sisters were born.

The family burying ground was still there, only one tombstone being left with the inscription barely visible. She also saw where the old St. Martin's Parish Church stood, very near the Swift property.  She visited relatives of her father and found that they had a great deal of information in regard to the Swift family.

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